Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets. “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. “Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. “Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
What hits you? What word or phrase stands out for you?
This is a portion of Jesus’ sermon on the mount (In this Luke version it is the sermon on the plain), which we call the beatitudes. It has kept scholars and theologians very busy because there is much debate about how to interpret them.
When St. Jerome translated the bible into Latin, the phrases each begin with the word “Beati” which translates in English as “Blessed” or “happy are they”. That’s why they have been called the Beatitudes.
Some scholars think that Jesus’ sayings were an intentional exaggeration to make a moral point while others think that they were standards for the original disciples only.
Martin Luther Reminds Us – We Can’t Keep the Law
Other scholars take this group of sayings as an absolute; a set of characteristics that followers of Jesus must strive for and still others, like Martin Luther, believe that the sayings are law, but a perfect law that we cannot keep.
According to the Luther understanding, Jesus’s intent, was to have the disciples and even the crowds see what they cannot accomplish on their own, and in turn, run to God’s mercy and grace.
Law or Gospel?
The Beatitudes can be read as law or gospel. As law, they are rewards for good behavior. As gospel, they are gifts that motivate good behavior. Consider the difference: The law says IF you are poor in spirit, THEN the kingdom of heaven is yours. The gospel says: BECAUSE the kingdom of heaven is yours, THEREFORE you recognize your spiritual poverty. The law says IF you are merciful, THEN you will receive mercy. The gospel says BECAUSE you receive mercy, THEREFORE you show mercy. The law says IF you make peace, THEN you will be called children of God. The gospel says BECAUSE you are children of God, THEREFORE you make peace.
So what do you think when you hear the beatitudes?
What do you think Jesus is saying to us today?
Let’s talk about this!
We convince ourselves that if people want to know Jesus that they’ll just come to where we are. They see the signs they know the church is here and they’ll come find us.Continue reading
Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” – GOSPEL: John 18:37
One time I was driving from home to work, when at the last minute I decided to take a route that I had never driven before. I said you myself, “self, let’s see where this road goes.” As I was driving, I came upon a young woman walking by the side of the road. I rolled down my window and asked her if she was okay or if she needed help.
She looked over at me and when she saw my collar and started crying (Note: I don’t always have that effect on people). I got out and went over to her and she told me that her car had broken down, and that her cell phone was dead, she was from out of town, and that no one would stop to help her. She said that she was praying as she walked, and then God sent her a pastor. I told her that she was correct because I NEVER come down this road, but I was led down this street today, just for her.
The Big Picture
Have you ever wondered why you are here, what your destiny is or why things happen the way that they do? Have you ever stopped to think about the bigger picture and what God has in store for you?
When Pilate questioned Jesus he asked him if he was the king of the Jews. Jesus, then, told him about destiny. Jesus said “FOR THIS I WAS BORN.” For this very moment I came to this world, to testify to the truth. Jesus knew the bigger picture, he knew that the events that were happening were leading to something more. Jesus knew why he was here.
Things to Ponder
Sometimes things happen in our lives for unexpected reasons and they leave us pondering why. And sometimes the answer comes to us quickly, like it did for me and that young woman on the road, and sometimes the answer comes later, and we say “Oh, now I get it!” God knows the reason that you are here. God moves us to places where God needs us to be, and it is our destiny to serve God.
So, let’s follow our destiny and follow Jesus in testifying to the truth, then the question of “why am I here?” will become clear.
As [Jesus] came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” – Mark 13:1-5
The Suspense is Killing Me…
Have you ever read a book and just had to peek at the last few pages to see how it ends?
Maybe it was a romance… Maybe it was a mystery… and it was so intense that you couldn’t wait to find out what happened at the end? Maybe you just had to know if the two people get together…. Or maybe you just needed to know if the “good guys” win… in the end.
Every once in a while, I have found myself doing that because somehow it made it easier to keep going, if I knew that everything turned out okay in the end.
Fear of the Unknown
Seems that real life isn’t that different, is it? One of the things that scares us the most is the unknown.
In their conversation with Jesus on the Mount of Olives, Peter, James, John, and Andrew wanted to know how things would end before they had even begun their work of spreading the gospel of peace to people of all nations. Jesus refused to tell them how or when their world would end.
He did not believe that revealing the end to them would help them be better disciples or more effective evangelists. Would knowing the end of the story have strengthened their faith in any way?
In some ways we are not unlike those first followers of Jesus. Most of us have moments when we are curious to know how and when things in this life are going to come to an end.
While We Wait – Living Faithfully
However, we do know how the story ends, we know that Jesus was raised from the dead so that we could have life and have it more abundantly. But let’s not stand around waiting for the end. Let’s be about the task of doing the work of God now. The future is open. What matters is not that we know the end of the story but that we live faithfully in the meantime.
Many years ago, Sharon baptized her niece Kennedy, she was six years old at the time.
One day we went to visit her brother and his family and Kennedy’s mom asked her to tell us what she had said about God.
She was a little embarrassed at first, but then after some prodding she said with a great sense of confidence and authority… “ONLY GOD CAN GIVE YOU REAL FREEDOM!”
And with that, a six year old summed up the Gospel!
ONLY GOD CAN GIVE YOU REAL FREEDOM
Jesus was talking to the Jews who believed in him …and told them
“If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples. And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
Jesus reminds us that real freedom is spiritual freedom. Real freedom is the freedom from sin and death and that freedom can only be given by God.
Weekly Reminder – Confession of Sins
Each week, we begin our worship with the corporate confession that reminds us of this truth.
The pastor says: If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us, but if we confess our sin, God who is faithful and just with forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
And then we pray together: we confess that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.
There it is, without God’s help we are not free. We cannot earn, or buy, or conquer our freedom because we are enslaved to sin. It is part of our human nature.
Martin Luther Described This True Freedom
“Our wills are bent or curved towards ourselves so that without God’s help, everything we do ends up being about us.”
You see we are not in bondage to our sins, those things we do wrong that come and go. We are in bondage to our own human nature which always puts ourselves before God.
And that’s exactly why Jesus came into the world. To free us from our bondage and save us from ourselves. Jesus went to the cross and went head to head with our sin so that he could pay the price required to set us free.
So I encourage you to live out your freedom. Let your life be an reflection of the Glory of God, and an example of the amazing things that living in true Freedom, TRUE FREEDOM… can produce.
Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Hebrews 4:15-16
Don’t Pick Me, Please Don’t Pick Me
Remember when you were in class as a student and you knew that the teacher was going to call on you to answer a question that you KNEW you did not know the answer too? You would do everything that you could think of to become invisible. (avoiding eye contact, looking down at the floor, pretending to be asleep…or actually being asleep) You were not confident in your abilities, your skill or your intelligence. And somehow it seems as if the teacher knew these facts, and they would go out of their way to call on you.
Let me tell you how different this is in God’s kingdom. God knows that we are, sometimes, clueless so God sent us Jesus to make a way for us where there seemed to be no way before. We call that GRACE (G.R.A.C.E. God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.) Christ came and lived and died so that we could have life and have it more abundantly.
Be Bold – God has the Answers
Knowing about God’s gift, we can have the courage… the strength… the ability to approach the throne of Grace with BOLDNESS. To approach the throne with the boldness to know that we do not have to have the answers, because God has already answered all of the questions. We don’t have to hide or try to become invisible, because we have a God who loves us and wants us to be at that banquet table with heads lifted high, celebrating our freedom in Christ.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen.
And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him. – Mark 1:14-20
Bringing Hidden Talents into View
There was an animated show several year ago called “The Iron Giant,” In one scene the Giant robot and his human friend are running through the town trying to flee from those who are chasing them and they fall over a cliff, as they are heading to the ground below, the robot turns on jets and begins to fly. The shocked little boy says with wonder and amazement “You can fly? YOU CAN FLY!!!” Apparently, even though they had spent a lot of time together, he did not know that his robot friend had this ability.
Strengths and Gifts
We also spend a lot of time with one another and are not aware of some of the strengths and gifts that we each have. Did you know that Grace has a Walking Club, a supper club, 3 adult Bible study options, a quilting group, a weekly youth ministry meeting? Did you know that Grace supports the Crop walk, prayer shawl ministry, Joy of Discovery? There is so much potential here at Grace, and in some cases our strengths and gifts are our best kept secrets.
Jesus called the twelve from their nets and boats and said “I will make you fish for people.” As evangelist Christine Kane asked “Are we fishers of men, or are we keepers of the Aquarium?” Come out on REFORMATION SUNDAY, October 28, and learn about all of the mission and ministry opportunities that we have here at Grace. Find something that excites you, and you just might learn that we can fly.
Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” – Mark 8:31-33
Bumper Stickers – Good and Not So Good
I have seen bumper stickers on some cars that make me laugh, some that make me sad, some that just confuse me, and some that are just plain wrong.
- “My dog ate your stick family”
- “My kid beat up your honor student”
- “The man who dies with the most toys, wins”
- And my all-time favorite: “Jesus is my co-pilot”
Are You Sitting in the Right Seat?
Folks when Jesus was speaking with his disciples and asking him if people knew who he was they came up with many answers. And let me assure you that Co-Pilot was not one of them. Siblings in Christ, if Jesus is your co-pilot then you can be sure that you are sitting in the wrong seat. Jesus is NOT the one who we are training or the one who will take over from us down the road. Jesus is, or at least he should be, leading our thoughts, words and deeds.
So get up, and move over and let Jesus take the wheel.
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. – James 2:14-17
I Have Faith
James is reminding the people that it is not enough to just say “I have faith.” Even thought Martin Luther, originally, thought that this book should not be a part of the bible, he later came to understand the power of this statement from James. As Lutherans we understand that we are Justified by Grace through Faith, and that our salvation… our Hope… our Redemption is NOT about the things that we do, but they are about what God has already done though Jesus.
Called to Step UP and Step Out
What James reminds us is that as those who know what Jesus did for us, it is not enough for us to simply be okay with that. Once we understand the tremendous power and sacrifice of the cross, then we should have no choice but to love one another as GOD loves us. That means that we are also called to step up, and step out in that faith and offer help and hope and a hand up to all who we meet.
September 9th was our “God’s Work, our Hands” day. We packaged more than 10,000 meals for those who are in need. That is putting a good work to our faith!
You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. – James 1:19-20 (NRSV)
Have you ever had that moment when someone or some thing made you so angry that you just wanted to strike out? Pastor Kelly Fryer in her book, “No Experience Necessary,” Shares this story:
At all of their family gatherings, Pastor Fryer’s mother tells this story about when Kelly was younger..
“I remember when she was about two and a half years old, She was outside on the sidewalk between our house and the neighbor’s with her new red tricycle. Suddenly, I heard a terrible noise. I ran to the back door and there she was. Her tricycle was all tangled up and, apparently, she was having trouble getting it to work right. So, instead of coming in and asking for help.. instead of patiently working at it until the problem was solved.. ..she was just KICKING THE DARN THING DOWN THE SIDEWALK!”
Mom Know Best
I remember that my mother used to teach us that we were to count to ten before we spoke back in anger. She said that this would give us a moment to think about what we were getting ready to say and decide whether we needed to say it or not. We live in a society where we have forgotten how to listen to one another, and even small differences of opinions turn into friendship ending or family dividing arguments.
Sometimes our anger and our tongue get the best of us, and we act or speak in ways that we later regret or wish that we could take back.
That is why this text from James is so important for us to read. Let us be mindful every day of the fact that God desires for us to learn to live in community, to learn to love one another as God loves us. So before you snap back at someone, or fire off that email or tweet. Pause and reread this passage from James, and let’s be DOERS of the Word, and not just hearers.